In preparation for the almost 17,000 students who returned to classrooms at 24 Hilliard City Schools buildings Aug. 21, about 1,600 staff members, teachers and administrators heard from U.S. Air Force Gen. Maryanne Miller, a 1977 Hilliard graduate.

Miller was invited and accepted to speak at the district's Aug 16 convocation after a district employee advised the administration that Miller was a Hilliard graduate, said district spokeswoman Stacie Raterman.

At past convocations, which are not open to the public, accomplished former students have been invited to speak about how a particular teacher inspired them to achievement.

This year, Bradley High School was the site of the convocation.

"She was amazing," school board member Heather Keck said.

Keck said Miller spoke about service to others and is an inspiration for people, especially women, to achieve at the highest levels.

Stationed at Scott Air Force Base, near Belleville, Illinois, and about 20 miles from St. Louis, Miller commands the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command.

"As commander of Air Mobility Command, I ensure we provide rapid, global air mobility and sustainment for (our) armed forces," Miller said.

Air Mobility Command provides airlift, aerial refueling, aero-medical evacuation, special air missions and mobility support worldwide, she said.

Miller said she is the only current four-star general in the U.S. Department of Defense.

Miller got her start in the Air Force at Ohio State University.

"While at college, I became I interested in the Air Force through friends and decided to join the (Air Force ROTC)," she said.

Miller graduated from Ohio State in 1981 as a distinguished graduate from AFROTC and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

She said by forging her path to the Air Force through ROTC, she is the only Air Force reservist known to achieve the rank of four-star general and the only female pilot to achieve such a rank.

Miller was selected for pilot training, receiving one of only 10 slots for women, she said.

"I love to fly and have been blessed with an amazing Air Force career," Miller said.

Miller began her aviation career at Ohio State's Don Scott Field.

"My first flight in an airplane was out of Don Scott," she said. "I was a junior (at Ohio State) and it was so natural for me it was like riding a bike," Miller said.

Since then, Miller has logged more than 4,800 hours in flight, achieving a rating of command pilot while flying a variety of aircraft, including jets, large cargo planes and aerial-refueling tankers.

Prior to Miller's assignment as commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott, she was Chief of the Air Force Reserve and Commander of the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, among many other assignments.

Promoted to general in September 2018, Miller's decorations include in part the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak-leaf clusters, the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster.